Archive for Sunday, September 18, 2005

Lawrence Aglow studies different aspects of faith

September 18, 2005

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Lawrence Aglow is rediscovering its roots in Sharon Faulkner.

Faulkner was one of the founding members who brought the women's ministry group to Lawrence in 1979. She was active in the organization until 1993, when her participation began to taper out. Now, over a decade later, she has returned and is the group's president.

Aglow, one of the first women's ministries, began nationally in 1967. Since then, it has spread across the globe. Local organizations have been established in 159 countries. Its goals include spreading Christianity to women around the world and mobilizing those women in humanitarian efforts.

Vicki Taylor, the area leader for Northeast Kansas Aglow, said diversity was what attracted her to the group.

"There wasn't just one denomination," she said. "Many faiths are represented. That's the way Christ's teachings should be."

Faulkner said this diversity can help women find their place in the world of Christianity by focusing on the similarities between denominations rather than the differences.

"It's really one church," she said. "There are manmade doctrines, but we are all followers of Christ."

By providing a means for exploring different aspects of faith, Aglow is helping Christians understand each other, Faulkner said.

One of the biggest impediments to women going to church these days, Faulkner said, is that they are busier than they have been in the past. As women take on more work responsibilities, they have less time for church.

This trend has also affected Aglow. At the first meeting, Faulkner said, 86 women attended. That number is now closer to 10 to 20.

The group also plans service projects, and one of the biggest of these projects is the jail ministry. The Lawrence chapter visits the Douglas County Jail twice a month.

The same diversity that helps draw women into Christianity works well in the prison system, said Mike Caron, programs director for the Douglas County Jail. He said the program was specially designed for women in jail and didn't discriminate among religious denominations, which attracted a larger group of inmates than other programs that may be sponsored by only one church.

These programs give inmates much-needed support that can help them readjust to life when they leave incarceration, Caron said.

"Most go into these programs as a way to get out of their cell," he said. "But it becomes a life-changing experience."

Taylor frequently volunteers in the jail and said she took as much out of the experience as the inmates did. At first, she said, she was surprised by how similar those study sessions were to any other Bible study group. Working frequently with women in jail had helped her break down common stereotypes and get to know women in the prison on a personal level.

Taylor said she also enjoyed helping to lift the spirits of the women.

"It's great to see them have some hope," she said. "It's nice for them to know that there is someone there for them. They look forward to it."

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